Austin Cohen is National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Champion

Philadelphia, PA–The final round of the 2013 National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Grand Championship featured Elk Lake High’s Austin Cohen, on the affirmative, against Walt Whitman’s Sophia Caldera. On a 3-2 decision, Austin emerged victorious. He is coached by Keith Brosius. Sophia is coached by Eric Palmer, Charles Chy, Eric Han, and Iaan Reynolds.

A note from the editors: Sophia’s finalist appearance is the best performance by an underclassman at a national championship since Harrison’s Danny DeBois finished second last year. The last underclassman to win the NCFL national championship was Walt Whitman’s Stephanie Franklin, in 2010.

Full results will be released soon and posted below.

  • Debater

    The only thing funny about that comment was how it was ostensibly speaking out against hatred towards a particular group of people, while simultaneously hating another group of people. You are entitled to your own religious beliefs, but blatant mischaracterization of a religion is not ok. No, Christians do not hate gay people. Yes, the legal marriage of two gay men or women is fine under Christian teaching, although the term marriage is probably the wrong one for any type of legal agreement in that it does not have a greater metaphysical significance. I am all for criticizing the NCFL or even the actions of the Catholic Church or any other religious organization, but hopefully criticism of doctrine would not be suitably justified and also be more sophisticated than a mischaracterization which amounts to “They hate gay people.”

  • tlonam

    My grandfather was roommates with the guy who wrote The Exorcist, so thats cool

  • caplane

    I was a parent judge at this debate. I received training on how to judge two years ago and have since judged several LD debates ranging from novice to varsity. I’ve no doubt made mistakes despite my best efforts. That said, I had a chance to speak with a number of other parent judges over the course of two days during this tournament. Some had never judged before. Many were unfamiliar with the term flow. Basic terms such as utilitarianism and consequentialism some claimed not to have understood. Others expressed confusion about how to award speaker points even though guidance appears on the ballot itself (which some did not notice until I pointed it out). In the future, I would urge the organizers of this tournament to require a workshop for judges — new and old — to ensure that all of us are operating according to similar assumptions regarding speaker points, basic terminology, what it means when a debater turns an argument or drops an argument, and why it is not appropriate to introduce completely new arguments in the 2AR. I offer these comments in the hopes that might contribute to a better experience for all the debaters who worked so hard to get to this tournament,

  • Adam Johnson

    I competed at NCFL about 15 years ago in Extemp. I dropped in Octas to a kid who sat on a table and gave a 2 minute speech that featured an intro that he whistled . . . It’s a truly embarrassing experience!

  • AJT999

    I think the issue with CFL judging is pretty significant when even a traditional judge like my dad had something to say (on his own accord, I take no credit for this email although I agree that there’s a judging problem). Here’s an email that he sent to the head of the Boston, MA Diocese:

    I am writing this email to you as a parent of a Lincoln-Douglas debater who just returned from competing in the CFLs in Philadelphia. My son, Adam Tomasi, is a sophomore at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, MA and has been engaging in LD since 8th grade. He has had quite a bit of success most recently making it to the quarterfinals at the TOC (Tournament of Champions) in Kentucky. The purpose of this letter is not to showcase my son’s accolades, but to express my amazement in the disparity of judging your tournament possesses. Let me showcase some blatant examples:

    #1008 Tyler Good-Cohn Round 5
    L 15.0
    L 28.0
    L 26.0

    How is it that one judge sees a 15 and the other two high 20s?

    Rebecca Hsu Round 4
    L 19.0
    W 27.0
    L 19.0

    Speaker points should not be used to emphasize a loss.

    Puja Trivedi Round 2
    W 30.0
    L 19.0
    L 27.0

    One judge saw this student as perfect, the other gave him/her a 19??

    #1076 Adam Tomasi Round 4
    L 15.0
    L 25.0
    L 21.0

    Again, a 15 is basically reserved for the debater falling apart on his speaking…isn’t it?

    I myself have been judging both novice and varsity LD for 3 years now, and speaking as a parent, a judge and a business professional I find it offensive and insulting that your tournament would not either screen or coach its judges more carefully. Some of these kids traveled 3,000 miles to compete in this tournament, and to be belittled by this judging would cause me to refuse to attend such a tournament if I was the one making the decision. Let me be clear, I am not in a position to make that decision for Sacred Heart whatsoever. I am writing you with no influence from SHHS nor its leaders, but again as a frustrated parent.

    I would greatly appreciate a response to this email.

    Steven R. Tomasi

    • mcgin029

      I don’t disagree with the spirit of the letter, but, honestly, NCFL consumers know (or should know) what they’re buying. Complaining about judging after NCFL is like complaining about stomach upset after White Castle.

      • Ryan Teehan

        I think the hope with the letter was possibly to rectify a pretty serious problem. Sure, people should know what they are getting into, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try to get it changed and fix the problem.

    • Rebar Niemi

      Having seen none of the rounds in question it would be absolutely preposterous for anyone to simply look at w/l and speaker points and be like “this round was misjudged.” Obviously these judges do not accord to the massively inflated speaks standards most of us are familiar with. Not saying they aren’t incompetent (I believe him), just saying that’s not a strong set of data to evaluate judging quality on.

      I’d be highly curious to know what the tone of response your father received was. I’d imagine that his letter would be received as entitled, belittling of the qualifications of the tournament directors/the tournament, and unwelcome. If his intent was to sincerely advocate for change I really doubt that this is a successful way to do it.

      • anon94

        i dont think the post was saying “these judges were wrong” but rather “the judging practices that your tournament seems to encourage are bizarre and wildly inconsistent.”

        nowhere does he say that the judges were wrong or that decisions should have gone the other way, but that the judging standards are so strange that they might as well be random chance. (thus why he would not re-attend)

        • caplane

          The ballot contains recommended speaker based on a speaker’s performance regardless of how they fared in the debate. A score of 15 is for a student who is incapable of uttering a coherent sentence let alone a paragraph.

          • Rebar Niemi

            that doesn’t seem very christian sir.

          • Debater

            And Jesus said unto the people, ” You shall judge inconsistently. The waters of true debate shall part before you, leading you to the Promised Land of Intuition. ”
            As it was written, so it shall be.

            5 Niemi 28:30

  • Joe Pinto

    Congratulations to Austin. Having debated Austin this year he deserves the win. He has only dropped 4 rounds all year and has one every tournament he has gone to including Pennsylvania States and NCFL. Congrats to an excellent debated and a really good guy.

  • Danny Spinelli

    Congrats to Austin who is not only an outstanding debater but a truly nice guy. Also a huge shout-out is in order for Rob Gormisky, who ended his debate career in the semifinals of the NCFLs!

  • mcgin029

    I once judged the NCFL LD final round.

    As I recall it was me and two nuns. I have no idea how I caught that ballot. The neg ran a stock LD argument but called it a “kritik.” The aff strategically dropped the K and made fun of the neg for running it.

    It was a 2-1 for the aff, of course.

    Rick Brundage debated at NCFLs once. In the fifth and final preliminary debate, he affirmed against a kid from Maryland who was wearing a neon green suit. One of the ballots read (and I quote):

    “The affirmative has better arguments and evidence. The negative has a spiffy suit. I negate.”

  • Jim Menick

    Glad to see a real picture has appeared here. Ari Parker is going down!

  • AJT999

    A lot of the CFL-specific “by-laws” were pretty dumb. For example, any judge that called for cards would have to pay a $25 fine. And, some of the things that the CFL tournament director that spoke at LD announcements said were nonsensical.
    Examples of things they told us, no joke:
    “Neither debater should have a burden of proof. This isn’t Policy.”

    “Calling for evidence isn’t necessary. Unlike Policy, the debaters don’t need to prove their point. They could very well quote their dad.”

    Besides that, congrats to both finalists (Sophia in particular; her and I debated at the Sophomore Throwdown this season)! Despite the weird rules, they did a good job.

    • Rebar Niemi

      This to me belies your complaint – if debaters are all subject to the same bizarre standards and some do better, and you don’t begrudge them doing better, does that not indicate that rather than some competitors being disadvantaged other competitors are simply more successful at “adapting?”

      • Debater

        I wouldn’t say it is adapting, given that the debaters who do well there tend to debate almost exclusively in that general type of debate. Obviously that has exceptions, but there’s a reason why most TOC qualled debaters tend to drop by the few few rounds of outrounds.

  • Debater

    NCFLs is a completely legit tournament.

    • I averaged around 17.5 speaks for kids I judged at NCFLs…using pretty much the same standards as I do at national tournaments. I judged the winner and I think I gave him a 19.

      • Debater

        Did you judge him before finals, or were you judging during the final round?

        • Prelims – thankfully FYOs can’t judge outrounds.

      • UTIL.DB8R

        You really have no soul.

  • anondebater523

    Re: editor’s note- Didn’t Noah Star win the NDCA national championship as a junior in 2011?

    • un·der·class·man ( n d r-kl s m n). n. A student in the freshman or sophomore class at a secondary school or college. Also called lowerclassman.

      • anondebater523

        A student in high school or college who is not a senior.

        Source: New Oxford American Dictionary

  • Um, Menick and I won catnats?